‘Les Noces de Pierrette’ is by no means Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting, although it does have a notorious history. The painting depicts a group of well to do families socialising at a wedding, however the figures are rendered with blank, emotionless faces and hollow eye-sockets. It was painted in 1905, during a critical period in Picasso’s life (His friend and fellow artist Carlos Casagemas had just committed suicide, and the famous painter was facing destitution). Deeply depressed, Picasso spent several months in isolation, developing the piece from sketches - using deep hues of blue to create an oppressively gloomy mood. When he finally emerged from his study, Picasso was said to be bitter and violent – aggressively refusing to let any family or friends see his work. After some weeks, his mistress Fernande Olivier was able to sneak into his study and finally observe the painting. What she saw was so traumatic that the couple separated shortly afterwards. Reportedly, a hysterical Olivier spent the remainder of her life in the care of her mother and sister.
Picasso then spent a further six months trying to salvage his canvas - painting over certain ‘offending’ elements, and removing one figure entirely. In a 1949 interview, the artist briefly mentioned the painting, commenting that “I don’t talk about it. It’s not mine”.
The painting currently resides in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where historians are using technology to view Les Noces’ lower layers. The enclosed picture is an enhancement of the painting’s lost figure (63.3:4:59).